Ho Chi Minh City – also known as Saigon – is widely known for its historical significance during the Vietnam War, but did you know that one of the city’s most enduring legacies is its stunning architecture? A trip around this incredible city will introduce you to a variety of structures ranging from French Colonial villas to modern steel and glass skyscrapers – signs of the city’s growth and innovation as well as its rich history.
View from the Top
Vietnam’s most populous city is also the country’s financial center, so it is fitting one of the highlights of any visit is a stop at the Bitexco Financial Tower. The tower is the tallest building in Ho Chi Minh City, clocking in at 859 feet high, and standing as a symbol of the rapid development of the city’s economy. Its design was inspired by Vietnam’s national flower, the lotus, with a helipad projecting out from the center at what would appear to be the blossoming lotus bud. While primarily used as an office space, it also houses a shopping mall, cinema, restaurant and bar. On the 49th floor is the Saigon Skydeck, where guests can enjoy 360-degree panoramic views of the city and the Saigon River.
The Other Notre Dame
The name Notre Dame generally evokes images of the famed Notre Dame in Paris, but there is another. Notre Dame Cathedral is one of Ho Chi Minh City’s most prominent attractions and it still serves as an active religious institution for locals, who can attend Sunday mass. The structure includes twin Romanesque bell towers that stand at nearly 196 feet tall. All the building materials for the cathedral were imported from France, and construction spanned three years from start to finish – from 1877 to 1880. While the building itself holds an important place on this list of architectural wonders, it is what’s outside that has drawn curiosity in recent years due to the story of the religious miracle that was said to have taken place there. In 2005, witnesses claim to have seen a single tear streak down the right side of the Virgin Mary statue that stands out front. Locals swarmed the city center to catch a glimpse, forcing authorities to stop traffic around the cathedral.
From Saigon with Love
Right next door to the cathedral is the Central Post Office, constructed between 1886 and 1891. This still-operating post office, which features a bright yellow exterior framed with white accents, is known for its distinctly French Colonial architecture, intricately designed marble floors, and looping arches. Amid the decidedly European touches hangs a large portrait of Ho Chi Minh at the end of the hall, reminding visitors that they are still, in fact, in Vietnam. Original oil paintings adorn the walls, which also feature two painted maps – one depicting the postal route from southern Vietnam to Cambodia and another outlining the local area. Travelers can visit the post office to purchase souvenirs, send postcards home, and visit the last remaining “public letter writer,” who has been translating letters into English, French, and Vietnamese for almost three decades. Nearly a nonagenarian, Duong Van Ngo has become a regular fixture here, setting up shop every morning as one of the few constants in an ever-evolving cityscape.
Additional time in Ho Chi Minh City is included with our comprehensive land packages for Riches of the Mekong and Charms of the Mekong itineraries:
What's Included in the Ho Chi Minh City Portion of Your Land Package
- 2 nights hotel accommodation in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) at the Sofitel Saigon Plaza Hotel (or similar)
- City tour including the former Presidential Palace, Central Post Office, Notre Dame Cathedral and the War Remnants Museum, plus excursion to the Cu Chi tunnels built during the Vietnam War
- Morning visit to Ben Thanh Market, one of the oldest and most iconic structures in Ho Chi Minh City
- Daily breakfast at the hotel
- Complimentary transfer between our beautiful AmaDara and your hotel in Ho Chi Minh City
- The services of one of our wonderful Cruise Managers throughout your river cruise and land journey
If you’d like to experience Ho Chi Minh City for yourself, we would love to welcome you aboard one of our Charms of the Mekong or Riches of the Mekong river cruises.